South Orangetown Central School District

Stokes Farm owner Ron Binaghi, Jr. returned to South Orangetown Middle School this afternoon to discuss farming and provide guidance as students planted seedlings they had started and tended to indoors over the winter and spring. “Farming isn’t a job, it’s a lifestyle,” he explained, noting that his farm hires summer help ages 15 and up. “Right now, we’re working 90 hours, seven days a week. In addition to farming, you need to know about plumbing, carpentry, electrical, finance, sales, marketing, and public speaking. The most successful farmers I know are very versatile.”

Over the course of the school year, technology teacher Lou Chugranis’ classes have engaged with a number of experts and entrepreneurs in the area of agricultural technology. Last summer, Mr. Chugranis received a Cornell University New York Agriculture in the Classroom scholarship to attend the National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference in Maine. He was awarded a 2019 Orange & Rockland STEM Classroom Grant to construct an off-grid, micro greenhouse in the SOMS Courtyard to incorporate instruction about sustainable technologies into year-round gardening projects.

“Whenever students ask why I like working in the garden, I ask them to name the most important technology. After they name cell phones and video games, I tell them that agriculture is most important and is the foundation for all other technologies,” said Mr. Chugranis. “One of my design professors, about a hundred years ago, told us that were it not for agriculture, the pyramids would not exist, skyscrapers would not exist, cars would not exist, transistors would not exist and microchips would not exist. Without food, we can’t do too much, and without agriculture, we would be wearing animal skins and furs and hunting and gathering most of our waking hours. This is why agricultural technology is important to me…besides, our tomatoes and peppers taste better than those at the grocery store!”

Farmer speaking with students in courtyard